View Full Version : Help for an experienced DM

Human Paragon 3
2008-02-21, 02:02 PM
Hi guys. I'm a fairly experienced DM looking for advice from other experienced DMs with.. er.. different experiences.

I've never DMd a session above level 12, but soon I'll be DMing a 5 session campaign that goes from level 16-20 (one level up per session). Looking for advice on crafting challenges for these levels and on making the progression from epsidoe 1 to episode 5 feel like a steady escelation to climax.


2008-02-21, 02:04 PM
Do you have a general idea of what sort of plot you are planning on working with?

Human Paragon 3
2008-02-21, 02:10 PM
In general, yes. It's set in a future post apocalypse plagued by evil outsiders. Time traveling players trying to get to their own time and members of the survivng humans battle demons, try to set things right, and try to fix the broken time machine. Time travel probably won't factor too much into the 5 episodes, since the machine is broken, but I might have them go to the moon and such.

One player is the King of New Earth or somesuch, a warlord with many minions at his command. At least one will be a full caster.

The plot will revolve, in general, around finding ways to stop the demons and ways to fix the time machine, preferably linking the two to unite the party.

Other than that- i got nothing!

Fiery Diamond
2008-02-21, 02:36 PM
A lot depends on how much combat/rp you can expect to get done in a single session. I tend to underestimate how long battles will take. If you already know that you have a specific number of sessions, then you need to be able to judge what will take how long, which might be difficult.

Just some advice - I mean, you could come up with something awesome and then not get finished because of miscalculations and that would be bad.

-Fiery Diamond

2008-02-21, 03:13 PM
Having played D&D forever, I find that the sweet spot tend to be levels 4-10ish. Once casters start throwing around 5th+ level spells, game balance and niche protection tend to break down. This is particularly true if you're going to be leveling up so quickly.

Having said that, I've played many games in the 15 to Epic Gestalt levels. So here's some general advice:

1) Have the players make their characters together, at the same table, at the same time, using the same pool of books. At high levels the power disparity between characters can be huge. But if everyone makes their characters together, party niches and power levels can easily be evened out. For example, if Player 1 wants to be a Wizard/Incantatrix, and Player 2 wants to be a strait Barbarian, you could tell Player 2 how much weaker he's going to be, and ask everyone if its ok that he gets more gp to spend on items.

2) Once everyone has made their characters, make a list of what each character does well, and what each character does poorly. Create encounters in such a way that every character has a chance to shine, and every character is challenged. Rotate them, so that no one is dominating for more then 1-2 encounter(s) in a row. For example, if Player 2 insists on taking Whirlwind Attack, make sure you have an encounter with tons of weak enemies. If Player 1 is a Wizard, make sure to have an encounter with an Iron Golem.

3) Have plenty of non-combat encounters. Roleplaying, mysteries, puzzles, riddles, traps, skill challenges, etc. That way, if someone makes a super versatile super powerful caster who can do everything, then other players still get plenty of time to contribute in other ways.

4) Don't use random encounters or treasure. They're just a waste of time, and can easily throw off game balance and/or flow.

5) Most combat encounters should occur in tiers. For example:

1st Tier: Players spot a group of Trolls attacking some merchants.
2nd Tier: If the Trolls are defeated quickly, the players find out that the gnomes were actually working with the Trolls and that its a trap, or more Trolls here the battle and rush out of the woods. If the party struggles with the Trolls, then nothing special happens.
3rd Tier: If the Trolls are totally owned, then a laughing invisible voice compliments the players. Its a high level caster who set this all up just to test the players. He can engage them in combat for a few rounds and then escape, or just tell them he'll see them again soon and leave.

By layering in but holding back reinforcements, traps, special powers, true forms, etc, you can control the balance of the encounters. If the players do exceptionally well, you can throw more at them. If they do poorly, you can hold back.

EXCEPTION: If the players take the time to prepare ahead of time (for example, they take a week to investigate the dragon that lives in a particular cave) you should make most of the tiers semi-transparent to them. For example:

Tier 1: Theres an elder red dragon that lives in the middle of a catacomb.
Tier 2: The cave is protected by his undead minions. Most of the time he's unaware of what they're doing and doesn't care, because they kill off most enemies without him having to worry about it. But the dragon can still call all of his minions to his location if threatened (you can decide later if this is instantaneous or if it takes several rounds).
Tier 3: There are tons of traps, however, they all use attacks that his undead minions are immune to, in case they accidentally set them off.
Tier 4: He has a potent magic item that he uses as a trump card in when truly threatened in battle, but the few people who survived encounters with him aren't sure what it is, only that it allows him to change form.

Thus, you still have the option of controlling the difficulty of encounters, but the PCs won't feel like you're "cheating" by just throwing extra monsters at them whenever they kill them too quickly.

2008-02-21, 03:41 PM
High level D&D combat has a fine line between a TPK and the PCs slaughtering anything you throw their way. Nobody likes a TPK, so you're better off underestimating them and fudging the encounter up in difficulty. If you use monster manual enemies, make sure you read them ahead of time. I can't tell you how many times the group was disappointed with an allegedly CR18 enemy only to discover that the DM neglected to read its win ability.